Partnership Administration and General HR

1. What types of EL partnerships are available?

Co-operative education placements (co-ops) and internships are the most well known forms of EL, but there are many other types of partnerships available. Ontario universities offer EL partnerships in all disciplines, including the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the liberal arts and professional studies (accounting, business, commerce, communications, economics, English, French, etc.), health sciences, fine arts and law.

Partnerships are available for on-campus and off-campus opportunities and can be paid or unpaid. For further information, see EL Formats.

Ontario’s universities offer paid and unpaid EL opportunities to students and in partnership with external organizations. Each university has different practices and procedures regarding if an EL partnership requires financial compensation.

What types of skills will students have?

Students will have scholarly and theoretical knowledge related to their fields of study, and transferable skills in areas such as research, writing and analysis. Additionally, students may have technical, industry- or job-specific skills depending on their program of study. Many students also acquire important knowledge, skills and experience by participating in extracurricular activities and part-time or summer employment. Under your direction, they will be able to hone their abilities while meeting your needs. Typical skills and abilities include:

  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Second-language aptitude
  • Presentation and public speaking
  • Research and analysis
  • Communications and teamwork
  • Unique and creative perspectives
  • Enhanced computer and technical competencies
  • Sector/industry-specific knowledge

Universities differ on the types of programs they offer and whether EL partnerships are available. For example, at the University of Waterloo you will be able to recruit students with skill sets developed from over 120 different programs from the Faculties of Arts, Environment, Engineering, Science, Applied Health Sciences, and Mathematics.

Can I require EL students to have job-specific or technical skills and/or experience in my field?

Most universities will provide the opportunity to post a tailored “job” posting for your EL opportunity. This posting can outline the specific job-related or technical skills as well as experience you are looking for. In brief, you should:

  • Define your needs;
  • Identify:
    • The academic discipline(s) you are targeting;
    • The academic level of the student(s) you are hoping to recruit;
    • The skill(s) and experience(s) you prefer;
    • Compensation (if applicable);
    • The start and end date of the position; and
    • The location.

You should keep in mind that students might have limited professional experience. However, many students will have obtained a lot of valuable experience through part-time work as well as extracurricular involvement in campus clubs, organizations and student government. The goal of EL is to enable students to bring their academic education to real-world situations while benefiting you and your organization.

Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) has developed recruiting ethics guidelines to support successful student recruitment.

2. When are students available and for how long?

Students are available year-round. Placement terms generally coincide with the academic calendar, which is usually broken into three terms:

  • Fall (September – December)
  • Winter (January – April)
  • Spring/Summer (May – August)

Depending on the program, students can be available full-time or part-time for a complete term (3-4 months), partial term, or multiple terms. For example, co-op placements generally take place over a 4-month term while an applied research project can be designed to take place over a matter of weeks. You should discuss these possibilities and expectations with your partner university.

3. Are students pre-screened prior to joining the EL program(s)?

Each university has set their own standards for student admission into an EL placement. In some cases, students apply directly to the EL option of a program and are admitted on a combination of their academic standing, a resume/CV, and statement of interest or cover letter. In other cases, students apply to a program with a mandatory EL component and are assessed during the academic admissions process.

Students often must maintain good academic standing in line with their program’s expectations to continue in an EL stream.

4. What paperwork do I need to complete to formally have students placed with my organization?

You will be required to formalize your partnership in writing. This may include different documents depending on the type of partnership being formed. These documents may include:

  • Partnership agreement;
  • Memorandum/Letter of understanding;
  • Partnership letter; and,
  • Employer/Partnership checklist.

Previous agreements may be provided to you as a template. For example, you can view examples of Student and Partner Agreements for EL from the Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers at OCAD University in Templates and Examples.

More Information

Formalizing your partnership is a best practice that will help ensure that each party’s expectations and responsibilities are clear and aligned. Further information is available in Negotiating the Partnership.

Universities and external organizations should develop a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship. As an external organization, you should be actively involved in the development of the partnership and negotiating the planning, design, implementation, evaluation, and recognition of the EL opportunity.

Key topics to consider include:

  • Placement description overview;
  • Term and termination;
  • Insurance obligations (please see our FAQ on Liability, Insurance and Risk Management);
  • Indemnification;
  • Intellectual Property (IP);
  • Confidentiality and privacy;
  • Relationship of the parties; and
  • Dispute resolution.

5. What are the time commitments for my staff or me?

Time commitments will vary depending on the type of EL partnership that you engage in. You and your staff should be prepared to commit the time necessary to on-board, train, supervise and evaluate the student. You should discuss these commitments with your university representative when negotiating the partnership agreement.

For more information, visit How to Mentor, Supervise, and Manage performance.

Is there any reporting that needs to be done for the institution? Do student evaluations need to be performed?

EL partners may be required to regularly report on the progress of the student and/or provide a written evaluation at the end of the term. The Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education (WatCACE) has developed a supervisor toolkit that guides you through the EL process, giving tips and best practices for each stage of an EL opportunity, including evaluation and reporting over the course of the experience.

You may have the opportunity to co-design the assessment(s) with the university. The University of Guelph offers a series of tools and best practices to embed reflection – a key component of student learning outcomes when engaging in hands-on work experiences – into the EL partnership. The Australian Collaborative Education Network has resources available to design an assessment suited to your needs and the best interests of the student(s). In particular, the ACEN advises you:

  • Be clear about workplace standards and expectations;
  • Provide students with opportunities to reflect on the skills and knowledge they use in the workplace;
  • Negotiate assessment tasks that are specific to your organization and the EL partnership; and
  • Ensure that student assessments allow students to critically reflect on their experience.

Will there be a workplace inspection?

Many universities require a site visit to ensure that external organizations and students fulfill their responsibilities. Check-in visits also occur. You should discuss this with the university when you are designing and formalizing your partnership.

What are the students’ expectations?

Research has found that EL students are motivated by the opportunity to gain practical work experience, enhance their resumes, improve their chances of employment in the future, and explore the day-to-day life of working in particular industries and sectors. This research suggests that EL students are looking to clarify their own career interests and goals while setting themselves up for future success.

Additional research suggests that setting and managing student expectations is a key component of a successful EL partnership. This includes having clear and consistent communication throughout the process to reduce misconceptions and miscommunication.  

Universities will work with you to ensure that your partnership allows students to participate in meaningful work and experiences that contribute to the development of their skills by complementing their academic studies. Students may complete a final deliverable or project that they can highlight as part of a professional portfolio.  These expectations should be formalized during the recruitment and on-boarding phases.

6. Our organization requires that students have an up-to-date police record check (less than 6 months old) by first day of work/volunteering. Can this be accommodated?

Many community partners and external organizations require EL students to have an up-to-date police record check before beginning a placement. Your partner university will likely have experience assisting students with obtaining these documents and some institutions require them as a prerequisite for beginning certain EL programs. However, processing times can take as long as 12-15 weeks to complete. York University has developed a guide to the police record check timelines for in and around the City of Toronto. Additionally, the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington has created an overview of volunteer screening tools and police record checks that you may find useful.

More information:

External partners should be aware that discrimination based on a record of offence or police record check may contravene the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Commission provides interpretation guidelines (see Section K) and recommends that police record checks should only be requested in instances where it is a “reasonable and bona fide qualification” that is necessary for job performance. The Commission further states that individual assessments of the specific information in a report should be conducted with respect to the requirements of the position.

Research identifies the potential for intentional and unintentional human rights violations based on the use of criminal record checks for screening EL students.  For example, two recent cases occurred where students were unable to complete their EL placements due to outdated and arguably improper records of interactions with police. External organizations should take care to assess the circumstances of records contained within a police records check, paying particular attention to instances where any charges have been pardoned or dropped, as well as when the record is based on a mental health apprehension and/or community contacts (a.k.a. “carding”) policy.

Who will be responsible for having this completed?

In most cases the student is responsible for having an up-to-date police record check completed in advance of their EL placement.

7. What best practices exist for integrating EL students into the workplace with my employees?

In brief, you should develop procedures for:

  • On-boarding;
  • Mentoring;
  • Supervising/Managing; and
  • Evaluating the student(s).

These should include performance management techniques and regular check-ins with the student(s) and university partner, if necessary.

Communication with the student and your university partner is important for creating and ensuring a successful partnership. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario has communication tips for mentors and placement supervisors.

Visit On-Boarding and How to Mentor, Supervise and Manage Performance for more information on best practices and key considerations.

What training is required/suggested for the student?

Subject-matter training should be specific to your organization and the work that will be performed during the EL opportunity. The University of Waterloo has developed best practices for supervisors of co-op students, which can be adapted for other EL partnerships.

You should discuss and plan any specific skills development or training a student will need to work with you or that you plan to undertake with them when negotiating your partnership agreement.

8. What do I do if the student is not performing up to expectations?

It is best practice to contact your university partner as soon as possible to communicate your concerns. Be clear about the reasons for your concerns: is the issue with the students performance or behaviour? Are they lacking in professionalism or do they appear to be uncomfortable asking for help? Providing as much information as possible to your university partner can help get to the root cause of the issue, and make it easier to work with the student and the university to improve or resolve the situation.

In case of conflict between my organization and a student, does the university get looped in? Whose dispute resolution protocols are followed?

Yes, you should contact your university partner should a conflict arise between you and the student.

Your university partner will have policies and procedures in place to address conflicts and/or disputes. Dispute resolution protocols can be addressed in your partnership agreement. For example, OCAD University has created a dispute resolution protocol stating the parties will “use reasonable efforts to amicably resolve any dispute which may arise.”

What happens when the external organization wants to prematurely end the EL relationship with the student and/or university?

The procedures for prematurely ending your EL relationship should be clearly outlined in your partnership agreement.

For example, OCAD University requires at least 14 days written notice before terminating a placement and the external organization is required to consult with the university to provide the basis for ending the placement. The university is required to follow the same procedure.

What do we do if a student error negatively impacts the business or client?

Students in certain programs, especially those whose EL placements involve direct interaction with the public, are required to register with the governing bodies of their respective industries or sectors.

Universities may require that you indemnify them from liability arising from the partnership as part of your formal agreement. It is best practice to discuss such scenarios with your university partner as well as your own insurance provider and/or legal professional to determine student coverage.

Universities may also provide general liability insurance for their students for cases of third party claims. Such coverage will only apply in situations where the work or duties performed are part of the EL placement.

You should discuss such situations with your university partner prior to entering into a partnership agreement.

9. We are a unionized work environment. Are there union-related implications to partnering on an EL/WIL program?

Research conducted for the Business/Higher Education Roundtable notes that union regulations may impact your ability to create an EL placement. The implications of creating an EL placement may be covered in the collective agreement(s) with your union(s). You should be aware of the particular situation at your workplace.

For example, some unions, such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Canada, may consider paid students as members of the union for the duration of their placement, while offering the opportunity for unpaid students to become union members.